Ponce De Leon Park, Atlanta, GA, April 10, 1949 – More than 25,000 baseball fans showed up to see the hometown Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association take on the Brooklyn Dodgers in an exhibition game days before the start of the MLB season. And because of the presence of Georgia-native Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, more than half of the record-setting crowd is African-American. Reportedly 5,000 more fans were turned away at the gates. Crackers President Earl Mann said it was the largest crowd to ever witness a Southern Association game.
It was also the last match of a three-game series, the previous day the Crackers laid down a 9-1 smacking on the Dodgers to even the series at one game apiece after Brooklyn took the opener.
In this rubber match, the Dodgers would send 22-year-old righty Carl Erksine to the mound and the Crackers wasted no time jumping to a 1-0 lead on three hits in the opening frame.
In the top of the second inning, Robinson didn’t disappoint the large turnout when he led off with a double off Atlanta’s starter Norm Brown. He would score on a Billy Cox flyball that would get lost in the sun and drop for a cheap base hit to tie the game at one apiece.
But the Crackers bats were just heating up and would chase Erksine to an early shower in the bottom of the second inning and would bang 10 of their 12 hits in the first four frames in building an 8-2 lead. The Dodgers would score two more runs but in the end they would lose the tuneup game 8-4.
-Ron A. Bolton